Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious, and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus” but still chose to repeatedly and publicly downplay its threat.
According to legendary journalist Bob Woodward‘s new book Rage, in which Trump admits to concealing what he knew, he also told Woodward on February 7, “This is deadly stuff.”
Trump had a series of interviews with the journalist and revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known, CNN reports.
“Pretty amazing,” Trump told Woodward, while also mentioning that the coronavirus was maybe five times “more deadly” than the flu. Trump’s admissions are in stark contrast to how he frequently appeared in front of the public, repeatedly insisting that it was going to disappear and “all work out fine.”
CNN reports that the book uses Trump’s words and depicts a president who has betrayed the public’s trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office.
Within the book, Trump also speaks of his role as a president, which is “to keep our country safe.” However, in early February, Trump told Woodward he was aware of how deadly the virus was and then, in March, admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even after he had declared a national emergency over the virus days before. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Experts believe if Trump had acted decisively by having a strict shutdown and a consistent message to wear masks and social distance in early February rather than playing it down, thousands of American lives could have been saved.
The startling revelations in “Rage,” which CNN obtained ahead of its September 15 release, were made during 18 wide-ranging interviews Trump gave to the journalist, from December 5, 2019, to July 21, 2020. All of which were recorded by him with Trump’s permission.
Also in the book are the many brutal assessments of Trump’s presidency from several of his former top national security officials, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Mattis is quoted calling Trump “dangerous” and “unfit” to be the leader of the U.S.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci was quoted telling others that Trump’s leadership was “rudderless,” and his attention span is “like a minus number” when addressing Trump’s handling of the virus.
“His sole purpose is to get reelected,” Fauci told an associate, according to Woodward.
Woodward also revealed that Trump received early warnings about the virus but often ignored them.
“Presidents are the executive branch. There was a duty to warn. To listen, to plan, and to take care,” Woodward wrote. But in the days following the January 28 briefing, Trump used high-profile appearances to minimize the threat, and” to reassure the public they faced little risk,” the journalist added.
“Rage” highlights how Trump took all the credit, but none of the responsibility for his actions related to the virus. “The virus has nothing to do with me,” Trump told Woodward in their final interview in July. “It’s not my fault. It’s — China let the damn virus out.”
If that wasn’t enough, Trump was well aware in March that the coronavirus posed a threat to young people, as he told Woodward, “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people.” But then as recently as August 5, he said children were “almost immune.”
However, Trump’s conscious concealing of the coronavirus is just one of many revelations in “Rage.” The book has anecdotes about top cabinet officials blindsided by tweets, frustrated with Trump’s inability to focus, and scared about his next policy directive because he refused to accept facts or listen to experts. For example, in regards to Trump’s input on Black Lives Matter, Woodward discussed the Black Lives Matter protests and suggested to the President that people like the two of them — “White, privileged” — need to work to understand the anger and pain that Black people feel in the U.S. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you,” Trump responded, repeating his outrageous talking point that he’s done more for the Black community than any president besides Abraham Lincoln.
Get your copy, September 15.